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Bayfield sewer meeting standards
10/5/2007 By: Carole McWilliams
After many months of crisis response, things seem to be looking up for Bayfield’s sewer system issues.
Town and sanitation district manager Justin Clifton reports the two entities have met the state mandate to reduce the strength of sewage (pounds per day) going into the Bayfield treatment plant - mainly because of pre-treatment settling tanks and filters installed by the school district at all four schools at a cost of around $100,000.
Some local businesses also have installed similar systems.
The state wanted a 51.42 pounds per day reduction. Just the two schools achieved around 60 pounds reduction, Clifton reported to town trustees on Sept. 18. He told the Times yesterday the reduction now looks like around 75 pounds.
The state gave the sewer district a one month extension on a Sept. 3 deadline for five targeted businesses to get their sewage strength down to 300 milligrams per liter (mgl). That was the estimate of what was needed to achieve the 51.42 pounds reduction.
“That just wasn’t feasible,” Clifton said. It had turned out to be much more expensive for the businesses and much more technically difficult than expected.
But on Sept. 18 he announced, “We have met the (overall) goal, and we will exceed it. Vastly exceed. That’s the last, most cumbersome, aspect of the consent order” the district signed with the state outlining what would be done when to get the plant operating within state permit limits while a new treatment plant is built.
“I’m very encouraged by where we are at,” Clifton said. “That (load reduction) was the most strict deadline, and it’s going away.”
He gave a similar report to the Bayfield Area Chamber on Sept. 20 and said, “I don’t see anything else in the consent order or anything else that raises a red flag.”
Groundbreaking for the new treatment plant is likely to be this winter, he said, with completion next October or November. “We are moving forward with the plant,” Clifton told trustees. “Plans are due to be turned in in early October. I’m really happy with the way we have lined up financing.”
The project is estimated at $5.8 million. The district and town have a $1 million Energy Impact Grant and a $5 million loan from the state Water and Power Authority. Clifton also is seeking other outside funding, including a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for Steamworks to reduce their system loading. They qualify because of the brewery jobs they create.
Clifton proposes to use the CDBG money to add more capacity in the new plant instead of doing a separate system at Steamworks, that someone then has to operate and maintain.
If all the outside funding comes in, “We are looking really stellar,” Clifton said.
“We expect to pay for a good portion of the new plant with new taps,” Clifton told chamber members. That cost is currently $6,000 per ERT. Clifton said he is anticipating 30 new taps per year.
“Some of the capacity was needed two or three years ago,” he continued. “Everybody has part of the burden. Some of the work should have been done years ago.” The number of tap sales and operating costs for the new plant will determine whether monthly rates will have to be raised to pay for the new plant, he said.
“The preliminary analysis indicates we can cover costs at the current rates,” he said.
The town is now working with the school district to buy 1 acre of school land south of the old mid school near the river, to provide room for the new plant.
Gem Village system
Not all the sewer news is good. Clifton advised town trustees, “The trouble is in Gem Village.”
The small treatment plant there was having effluent violations early this year. Those were tracked to an out-flow pipe that was too low and was sucking up sludge, Clifton said.
The district had sludge removed (at both plants), but then the Gem Village plant started getting really high loading, Clifton said. Illegal dumping, including chemicals, is one possibility.
“We need a full content analysis” of what’s coming into that plant, he said. It can be really expensive. But at this point we are kind of at a loss. Those (loading) numbers, they have to be chemical.”
Even sabotage has been considered as a cause, he said. “The problems have been many and varied. These are new problems. They can’t be explained by the limited growth unless one of them has brought some extraordinary impact.”
The sanitation district is seeking voter approval this fall to dissolve at the end of this year. If approved, the town will take over all operations in Bayfield and Gem Village, all district revenues and expenses, and oversee construction of the new plant.
Clifton said the town will send an information sheet to Gem Village customers to assure them that their service will continue, and that this isn’t a scheme to annex them against their will.
“We can’t force (annexation) on anyone,’ he said.